MEDSCI 311 : Cardiovascular Biology

Medical and Health Sciences

2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An advanced treatment of the human cardiovascular system that provides an integrated framework for understanding the structure, function and regulation of the heart and circulation, and their modification by drugs. Topics include: the energetics and mechanics of the heart, the regulation of heart rhythm and the control of blood pressure and the regulation of flow through the microcirculation. The course is illustrated using examples drawn from current research in the field and from representative disease states.

Course Overview

It is an enjoyable paper comprising of exciting laboratory components, stimulating lecture content, and extremely helpful lecturers. At its crux, the course wishes to produce autonomous thinkers and competent scientists. Reading journal articles that are often written by the respective lecturers, producing your own experiments, presenting a poster and working in a team are some such core values Medsci 311 wishes to pass on. There are only 2 lectures a week so there is plenty of time to read and appreciate the cardiovascular system.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: MEDSCI 205

Course Contacts

Prof. Laura Bennet
Course Director        
Department of Physiology, FMHS, Grafton
Phone: 923 4890
Room: 503-401

Anuj Bhargava
Course Coordinator            
Department of Physiology, FMHS, Grafton
Phone: 923 6200
Room: 501-002

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Critically appraise and evaluate the cardiac structure and and its importance in maintaining the vascular function in health and disease as demonstrated with the heart failure models. (Capability 1, 4 and 5)
  2. Critically appraise the determinants of blood pressure and understand the physiological factors that contribute to development of hypertension and therefore inform treatments. (Capability 1, 3, 4 and 5)
  3. Evaluate the foundations of cardiovascular structure in fetal life and how its understanding influences clinical treatments in adulthood. (Capability 1, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Critically analyse the data obtained in practical laboratories and present in a logical manner both as oral and written communication assessments. (Capability 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
  5. Integrate the information, critically think and create new ideas based on recent scientific literature. (Capability 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  6. Work safely and effectively in the field and laboratory and gain confidence in working in a group environment and contributing effectively (Capability 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Presentation 5% Group & Individual Coursework
Essay 15% Individual Coursework
Test 15% Individual Test
Reports 25% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Final Exam
As per Bachelor of Science regulations-Practical Requirements 6 In any course that includes assessed practical work as well as other assessed work, it may be required that a student must obtain passes in both the practical and the other work in order to pass that course as a whole. Where this is specified a student who passes the practical work but who fails the other work may, at the discretion of the Academic Head, have the result for the practical work carried forward when the course is retaken.

To pass Medsci 311 course, you are required to pass both the final exam and the internal assessments. This means:
(i) Final exam: you need to obtain at least 20% out of 40%.
Internal Assessments: you need to obtain at least 30% out of 60% (made up of 30% practical lab activities; 15% literature review assignment and 15% mid term test).
Specifically, you need to:
(ii) Attend and actively participate in the laboratory practical sessions.
(iii) Submit all the TWO practical lab based assessments + Poster presentation participation (unless a valid reason for missing the poster session provided).
(iv) Receive a minimum mark of 15% out of 30% in the laboratory course component.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 2 hours of lectures, a 3 hour lab session, 3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and based on previous students feedback, about 10+ hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs/tutorials to complete and receive credit for components of the course.

Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs will not be available as recordings.

The course unlikely to will include live online events including group discussions/tutorials.

Attendance on campus is required for the test/exam.

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

For each lecture we have provided specific course objectives to help focus your study. We have a recommended text to assist in revision of basic cardiovascular physiology. If this text does not work for you, the library holds many more that may better suit. The more detailed knowledge required for the course will be found in specialist literature: books, reviews and original scientific papers. A list of starter references are provided for each lecture or module, but students are expected to read more widely. 

Recommended Text for Medsci 311 is: Berne RM & Levy MN. Physiology. 6th Edition Mosby Year Book Inc., 2007 but we highly recommend reading latest scientific papers presented during the lectures or suggested in the readings. You will have a much better outcome if you expand from what is presented in the Medsci 311 lectures.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Based on the SET feedback around the lab report assessments we have increased the weighing of this assessment to truly reflect the associated workload.
We will also be providing more feedback on mid term test.

Other Information

We have designed the MEDSCI 311 lecture series in specific modules, which allow you to focus on specific learning objectives for that module.

Module A: Cardiac Function and Pathophysiology
Module B: Cardiac Pharmacology
Module C: Cardiovascular Control
Module D: Fetal Physiology

However, each module provides important information which can be incorporated into your study of the other modules. For example, the determinants of blood pressure are cardiac output and vascular resistance. Thus knowing how normal blood pressure is regulated and the factors which lead to dysfunction (hypertension) requires you to know about both cardiac and vascular structure and function. From this you can then build a stronger understanding about how our cardiovascular system responds to clinical treatment, and how compromising the foundation of cardiovascular structure in fetal life can radically change our understanding about functional control and responses to clinical treatment.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. Further information can be obtained from: (Students - Plagiarism and Cheating section).
If you are under pressure or stressed by deadlines, discuss this with the Course co-ordinators. We are here to help you.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.